G. Roy Levin

The wise man on top of the mountain


I received a Master of Fine Arts in Visual Arts degree from Vermont College of Norwich University on August 11, 2001. Vermont College is a 14 hour drive from Cleveland, Ohio - a tad off my usual stomping ground, but it was there that I was able to complete my master's degree thanks to the vision and effort of G. Roy Levin, the program's founder and its first Director.

"Roy", as everyone called him on campus, was indeed the wise man at the top of mountain, a charismatic character that brought the scriptural prophets of old to mind. His looks, mannerisms, his scholarly dissertations, and his actor's trained voice (he is a graduate of Yale Drama School), made G. Roy Levin a fountain of stimulating energy to all of us and the heart and soul of the MFA program.


A magestic view of College Hall at Vermont College, in Montpelier, Vermont.

The instructional model Roy created for the MFA Program in Vermont College, which combined personal work, at home instruction (with qualified local Artist-Teachers), in-campus residencies, and guidance in academic work by artists, art historians and critics in visual art, was tailored made for the needs of the "working artist".

In the late 1990's, I was burning the candle on both ends and could not afford to stop working in order to enter a post graduate program. But I needed a master's degree in order to qualify for one of my goals: to become a college professor. My closes choice for an MFA degree was a three-year full residency program at Kent State University (a forty-five minute drive from Cleveland), and this was simply out of the question. So when I learned of the MFA program in Vermont, I knew this was the only way I could make it.

Two years later, I had my degree -and the largest diploma I have ever seen! My graduating class, however, was the last class to enter the program during the leadership of Roy. He retired to continue work on his own pursuits, but his presence, and his aura, remained strong on campus. During our graduation group planning talks we commented on the significance of being "Roy's last class" and how much we would miss the whole Vermont experience once went back to our former and new lives. I then volunteered to do something special to give to Roy, something to remember us by. And I knew just the thing.


"G. Roy Levin" 2001. Artist's Acrylics and Oils on a 1/4" (.635cm) plywood panel. 26 x 36 inches (66 x 7.62 cm)

The United States government rewards its war hero's and distinguished citizens with medals. But to the people of America there is no greater individual honor than to appear on a box of Wheaties. Therefore I knew, that Roy, also an artist whose own paintings, collages, dolls, and mini-sculptures are made from the refuse of a consumerist society, would appreciate the thought and the context.

The artwork's dimension was enlarged proportionately to a box of Wheaties. The surface was made out of a 1/4 inch thick piece of plywood that I prepared with several coats of gesso on both sides (to avoid warping and cupping of the wood) and then sanded the surface as smooth as the printed cereal box I was using as a model. In every detail the painting is an exact copy of a box of Wheaties. The only thing I omitted was to add the person's name. I figure that since "G. Roy Levin" was the title of the piece there would be no need to paint it on.

I did the painting using acrylic paints because of their opaque and saturated colors. Since lettering was extensive and tedious, fast drying acrylics were also good for adjustment and corrections. The painting was done during a five-day period, once my design and reference pictures were in order. However, I did not complete the finished flesh tones on face and hands until two years later. I liked the painting so much I kept it around the house for my own enjoyment.

But, realizing that I had to let go, I proceed to complete the flesh tones using oil paints. This is a standard procedure in my practice because I can give these areas a more photographic look, especially when it involves a portrait. Once the painting was completed, I sprayed it with a light coating of "Krylon" clear finish to protect the surface and give it an even sheen.

On the back of the panel I glued three one-inch wood blocks in a triangular arrangement, one centered on the top (with a hook for hanging) and two at the lower corners for balance. The wood blocks would raise the panel off the wall when exhibited providing a sounding shadow, which I felt, gave the piece three-dimensionality. And so, from the graduating class of August 2001, "Thank you, Roy!"


"Art does not exist in a void, but, necessarily, within the social context which defines and conditions the art you produce and how it is perceived. Thus, no matter what kind of work you make, the social context influences that work and is therefore central to our dialogue about art"
-G. Roy Levin. Inaugural speech excerpt, August 1991. Vermont College of Norwich University.

Late Entry 2003

It is with great sadness that I share the news of Mr. G. Roy Levin’s death on July 22nd, 2003. An open memorial service to celebrate Roy's life was held on August 3rd at College Hall Chapel, Vermont College. Some time later after Roy's passing, I received a nice letter from Roy's companion, thanking me for the painting of Roy, and how much he had enjoyed it. It was placed in his bedroom where he welcomed visitors during his illness. I was most grateful for her kind letter because it felt good to know Roy appreciated my sense of humor and much as I had enjoyed our private lunch conversations in Vermont. Roy, you were one of kind and I feel proud, honored, and grateful to have known you.

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